Champagne for the same price as a house, and a “birthday slap” for Justin Bieber.

The origin of this post is a feature by Guy Adams on pages 12 and 13 of the Daily Mail on Saturday the 10th of August 2013, and is well worth a read in its entirety. 

We had many tempting options for a headline. We thought about Cirque Le Soir – possibly the most self indulgent nightclub in the world – or – 30 litre gold plated bottle of champagne at £120,000 – or even – Justin Bieber “shown the door” because of his “early” teenage friends – but settled for  – Champagne for the same price as a house, and a “slap” for Justin Bieber.

Located via a small lane off Carnaby Street, entry to Cirque Le Soir is  controlled by Chamonix, a South African “picker”. Entry to the club is largely based on “money” or fame – the famous are allowed entry, but not footballers, soap stars or reality TV celebs. Dress code is flexible, especially if you have booked a £2000 table for the night.

And the policy works.

Benedict Cumberbach, Stephen Fry, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo Di Caprio, Rihanna, Will I Am, Kayne West, Jason Statham, and Cara Delevinge have all visited, but not at the same time. Other guests include the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and Katy Perry, have descended the Alice in Wonderland staircase, into an arena dedicated to the spending of money. Secondary attractions include scantily dressed entertainers and  soft core porn, with latter watched through “key hole shaped peep holes”.

Half of all hopeful customers are turned away, and the girls must wear high heals. Dirty trainers and Bermuda shorts are OK for the guys providing wallets are loaded.

But not for poor Justin Bieber.

Fancy being forcibly ejected on your 19th birthday especially when you have the 14 year old Karate (Jaden Smith) Kid in tow. In a fit of hissy he told 42 million Twitter fans that his 19th birthday had been ruined. At the same time informing millions more that Cirque le Soir was now a safe Bieber free zone.

Theatre and Champagne take centre stage. A bottle nine litre bottle of gold plated, Armand  de Brignac. Midas Ace of Spades complete with pewter label, will set you back £120.000. Behind your back you will be referred to as a “whale”, and the young ladies who join you as “table whores”, but who cares. You`re too rich and powerful to care. Business in steady at one bottle every two months.

Over £700000 for six drinks.

However, budget champagne is also available. Jeroboam s of Dom Perignon are only £3000, but don`t expect a Cirque le Soir to be opening in your town any time soon. Similar venues have opened and closed since nightclubs began.

Such overt displays of wealth and its perceived power are timeless. We have a good idea how the Cirque le Soir story will end.

Let`s wait and see.




The Night Graham Peel waited and waited and waited for Margaret Thatcher at the Blackpool Locarno

The late great Graham Peel left us a wealth of stories here at Locarno Boy, and on the day of Margaret Thatcher`s funeral it seems fitting to tell the following story – which we have titled –

The night Graham Peel waited and waited and waited for Margaret Thatcher at the Blackpool Locarno.

Graham was one of the most successful and nomadic nightclub managers in the industry. Working in almost every town and city in the country, he dealt with issues ranging from the Krays holding court at Tottenham Royal as they collected their protection money from “clients” – attempting to run Liverpool Tiffany`s in the face of fanatical union pressure because he had sacked someone for stealing – and meeting and greeting Prince Charles and Lady Diana at Hammersmith Palais.

On this occasion he had been sent to manage Blackpool Locarno.

On arrival he introduced himself to the staff and read the private function sheets, one of which referred to a Conservative Party event, so in his inimitable and stoic style he rang the local party office about “a Conservative Party Dance”.

At this point he was subjected to the blistering response of ” A Conservative Party Dance……..THE Conservative Party Dance”.

And from thereon things moved apace. The building underwent a transformation as it was cleaned, polished, painted and adorned with spectacular displays of plants courtesy of the Blackpool Corporation Parks Department.

On the night, with everyone standing in their allocated positions, the Locarno waited in anticipation. The dance floor shimmered under the reflection of the cleanest effect lighting in any of the Locarnos.

The was band primed and ready to ensure that Mrs Thatcher`s favourite tune would greet her the instant she arrived.

Graham stood to attention at the front door, and eventually the phone call came to say that she had left her hotel.

It was as though the building itself gasped in anticipation as the band glided seamlessly into “Hello Dolly”.

But by the end of “Hello Dolly” there was no Mrs Thatcher. So the band played it again, while Graham hopped from foot to foot. Anxious faces peered along the road……. as the band played on and on.

Suddenly the entourage appeared, Mrs Thatcher and Denis were greeted and ushered into the building to the fourth or fifth rendition of “Hello Dolly” at which point everyone began to relax.

Specialist police officers had been brought over from Northern Ireland to assist with the security for the event, a number of which were on duty in and around the Locarno as result of activities by the IRA in other parts of the country.

However this caused something of a difficulty for the then Home Secretary William Whitelaw.

Whilst attending to the needs of nature he was spooked by a number of dinner suited Irish speaking males, which made him somehow lose concentration.

All of which resulted in his exit from the Stag Room with somewhat damp shoes.

Other than the Home Secretary`s damp shoes the night was a great success, and we are indebted to Graham for relating the story.

I wonder if those who had the pleasure of working with him have any doubts as to where he will be tonight!

Hl will be standing at the Pearly Gates with his band playing……

“Hello Dolly”

Ready to say “My name`s Graham. Do you remember that night at Blackpool Locarno?”


Mecca Dance Halls and Managers from Summer 1961

We thought you would like to see a list of the Mecca Dance Halls and Managers from Summer 1961.

Clearly there are many town and cities not mentioned – such as Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow, and many many others, but perhaps there is a clue in the number of planned openings highlighted in the list below.

Basildon Locarno – Town Centre – Manager     M Green

Belfast Plaza – Chichester Street – Manager    D R Clark  – Phone Belfast 25294

Blackburn Locarno – St Peter Street – Manager B Gee – Phone Blakewater 85538

Bolton Palais – Bridge Street – Manager W. McLeish – Phone Bolton 1451

Bradford Locarno – Manningham Lane – Manager Alan Boyce     (Opening 9th September 1961)

Burnley Locarno  – Manchester Road – Manager  C Isherwood   (Formerly the Mechanic`s Institute)

Bury   Prince`s Ballroom – Bolton Street – Manager L Byron – Phone Bury 1705

Coventry Locarno – Smithford Way – Manager R Bloxham – Phone Coventry 24570

Derby Locarno – Babington Lane – Manager A Ferris – Phone Derby 41441

Edinburgh Palais – Fountainbridge – Manager G Knowles – Phone Fountainbridge 7427

Hull Locarno – Ferensway – Manager J Munro       ( Opening 16th September 1961)

Ilford Palais – High Road – Manager B Foster – Phone Ilford 3128

Leeds Locarno – County Arcade – Manager J Savile – Phone Leeds 31046/7

Leicester Palais – Humberstone Gate – Manager G Pickavant – Phone 69967

Liverpool Grafton Rooms – West Derby Road – Manager T Reid – Phone Anfield 3928

London Lyceum – Wellington Street, The Strand – Manager D Preedy – Phone Temple Bar 3715

London Carlton Rooms – 140 Maida Vale, W 9 – Manager J H Richardson – Phone Maida Vale 5289

London Empire Rooms – Tottenham Court Road – Manager C Self – Phone Euston 4173

Manchester Plaza – Oxford Road – Manager P Wild – Phone Central 7441

Newcastle upon Tyne  The Mayfair – (Planned for opening during October 1961)

Norwich  Sampson and Hercules Ballroom – Tombland – Manager R V Shackell – Phone Norwich 21541

Norwich Norwood Rooms – Aylsham Road – Manager G Barbour – Phone Norwich 46751

Nottingham Sherwood Rooms – Greyfriar Gate – Manager N F Kemp – Phone Nottingham 50555

Nottingham Locarno – St Anns Well Road – Manager G Lloyd – Phone Nottingham 44354

Rochdale Carlton – Great George Street –  – Manager E Mills – Phone Rochdale 3347

Sale Locarno – Washway Road – Manager J Goodings – Phone Sale 1508

Sale Embassy Rooms – Washway Road – Manager H Burnett – Phone Sale 7522

Sheffield Locarno – London Road – Manager M S Proctor – Phone Sheffield 22586

Stevenage Locarno – Manager B A Elmer-Smith   (Opening September/October 1961)

Wakefield Locarno – Southgate – Manager R Keith – Phone Wakefield 6515/6

The Marquee, Whisky a Go Go, The Birds Nest, Lee Dorsey, Geno, James and Bobby Purify, Edwin Starr………

It was soul music that cost me a university course!

I used to club Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  Lee Dorsey, Rufus Thomas, Willie Mitchell, Olympics, Shorty Long, Archie Bell, Chuck Wood…, as well as all the household names filled my head and we filled the dance floor. I lived in Stevenage in my mid teens but had a friend I stayed with in Staffordshire and one night we went to this allnighter at the Sherwood Rooms. I well remember seeing Geno and think the other acts were James & Bobby Purify, and the Diplomats. We staggered out at 6 am and headed for home. Other gigs included seeing Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers at the Marquee in London, Edwin Starr at the Black Prince in Bexley as well as the regulars at Stevenage Mecca. Anywhere there was good music we would chase it. There was also a great club in Hitchin called the Scene that did steaks as well as music. Take me back to Aunt Dora’s Love Soul Shack!

We gravitated to various clubs in London around 1970, notably the Whisky a Go Go in Soho and the chain of clubs called “The Birds Nest” which I think were really just pubs with cages! we had a car by then, an Austin A35 with go faster radiator!

In between we would head to Carnaby Street the Kings Road and Biba for clothes and Harlequin records – an independent chain that sold good music. I still have a couple of items of clothing from that era but I sold all my records in 1970 and then ten years on started buying them back again. Does anybody remember Reddington’s Rare Records in Birmingham?

And the day job – I used to drive an IBM golf ball typewriter and we had real carbon paper until they invented carbonless copy paper which I usually managed to muck up by forgetting it would take an imprint of anything you wrote down!

Boys were all called John, Dave, Philip, Ian, Andrew… Wayne and Craig had not been invented. And the girls, no Traceys, only Lindas, Susans Kays and Carolines!


Image of Whisky a Go Go poster from




From: Alan Francis (Head of Security, Mecca Leisure, 1978-1991) – and Jimmy Savile

Alan has kindly sent us the following piece for Locarno Boy – which not only captures the era, but also embodies the spirit of working for Mecca. It was originally written at at the time of Jimmy Savile`s passing – for a Police publication.

Of course memos are a thing of the past – but there were certain names and departments demanding immediate attention – such as –

From:   Alan Francis   (Head of Security, Mecca Leisure, 1978-1991) – and Jimmy Savile

Sir Jimmy Saville and charity

Over 40 years ago with several City Police colleagues, invited by the BBC, we went to the Paris Cinema to participate in a ‘Crime and punishment’ radio show ‘Speak Easy’ presented by Jimmy Savile,(JS).  It was a good experience.  His death has just been announced.  JS was a prolific charity worker.

After retiring from the beloved City I went to work for Mecca Leisure, on the edge of show-business, where I met JS several times. At the Cafe de Paris , Coventry Street, the manageress Avril Matthews McClay, a singer, had been through a traumatic experience when her husband and child had been killed in a plane crash and she had been nursed by JS in Stoke Mandeville Hospital.  At the Cafe de Paris there was a charity evening for the disabled.  The Royal Marines turned up in uniform to carry the disabled inside and Jimmy Saville arrived with a Russian Princess.  Paul Daniels also later arrived in support of Avril to give a free show of magic which was amazing.  A lot of money was raised for the disabled-related charity PHAB (Physically Handicapped Able Bodies).

JS came to numerous Mecca functions and TV shows, always ready and willing to talk to anyone.  I last saw him in Tropical World, Roundhay, Leeds, where we co-incidentally met going into see the birds and butterflies. We briefly reminisced about the Cafe de Paris.

In the early days JS was a very successful DJ at Mecca in Leeds.  Mecca, next to the BBC, was then the biggest employer of musicians nationally. The advent of discos plus musical hits like Saturday Night Fever and Grease caused big changes: youngsters started to sit out while live music was played but in the interval, when popular recorded disco music was played, they all got up to dance. It should have been the other way round!   Mecca had 84 discos/dance halls. Charity activity was never far away.

I was approached at home by a neighbour who had several young sons of policemen in a football team which he sponsored.  One of the policemen had died and I was asked if Mecca would allow a charity-raising function in one of their branches in aid of his family.  I saw the MD.  He offered free the very large dance hall at Streatham, with staff and band, provided Mecca could keep the bar take.  A huge police attendance resulted and the bar take was an all-time company branch record – extra drink had to be taxied from Wimbledon, Lyceum and Tottenham!  Mecca donated £500 from the bar-take to the fund…it was a good night!

Nearer the City, Mecca arranged a charity stunt which raised an enormous amount of money. It started at the HAC Ground at the City boundary. A circus cage was erected in which Mecca staff (mostly assistant managers), dressed as realistic gorillas, were herded by attractive Mecca girls in tights, scarlet jackets and top hats, plus whips.  The gorillas were then rescued by the Red Devils army parachute team who were dropped from a plane, landing skilfully by the ring. Once released the gorillas went off collecting round the country.  I think I might have fancied staying in the ring with the girls, but no chance!

Working for Mecca was a great experience and an absolute change from life in the City of London.

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